Authors: Why You Should Be Writing in Adobe InDesign

by Joel Friedlander on August 17, 2011 · 61 comments

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by David Bergsland

I’m very pleased to present you today with a guest article by author, teacher and graphic designer David Bergsland. David has a unique method for writing and designing his books and a passionate reason for it too. Here’s his story:




A recent email conversation with a new friend (who is working on her book) made it obvious that what I am doing is nearly unique. She was desiring to do the same thing—work  creatively within Adobe InDesign to produce completed books almost as a fine art exercise. She couldn’t find anyone else even talking about it.

One of the wonderful things about the new publishing paradigm is the control we get as artists, authors, and designers over the entire package. The modern book is released in multiple sizes, versions, and formats—in print, online, and as e-books.

The content and design remain fluid as we shape the book while we learn and grow. We can easily adjust content, layout, and the entire presentation of our books [even after they are released] in response to emails, FaceBook friends, tweets, and the whole host of contemporary social interactions online.

One of the trials of this new paradigm is the incredible amount of knowledge required and the various skills necessary to do all of this. I have been uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new workflow. I began as a fine artist in the 1960s and early 1970s. I learned typesetting and graphic design at the hands of a masterful art director in the late 1970s. I spent a decade as an art director myself within the largest commercial printer in Albuquerque.

The Word Spreads

I began teaching these materials in 1991. Within a couple of years a large traditional publisher was asking me to convert my handouts into a book on the new digital printing. I used that opportunity to develop one of the first printing and design programs in the country that was all digital. I wrote a book a year for them on typography, FreeHand, Illustrator, Photoshop, and finally InDesign. Publishing with InDesign was one of the first books on this new software that would quickly take over the industry,

While all of this was going on, in 1996, I developed a complete online version of all my coursework at my community college. I continued to write new instructional materials. I was supplying them to my students off the class website as downloadable PDFs.

Then, in 2002, I found Lulu. With Lulu, then CreateSpace, then Scribd, then Zazzle, then Kindle, and then ePUBs, my world radically changed. Writing books became a real joy to me as InDesign kept getting better and better. More and more I was doing everything in InDesign except the photos done in Photoshop.

So, why should you use InDesign?

Here I am again recommending a road less traveled by—not unusual in my life and work. Before the choruses rise up in defense of other workflows, let me tell you my reasonings.

I fully recognize that most people write in Word. What they do not realize [in most cases]: this simple fact starts their book under a great handicap. They are missing the best tools for communicating with their readers.

Books are not entirely about words


Of course as a writer this may not make much sense to you. But hear me out. For years I have taught graphic designers that the content is all that matters. This has been a major fight because many [maybe most] designers never read the copy they design into books and printed materials.

In fact, this is still true now that graphic designers are responsible for laying out Websites, blogs, and many other distributors of the words you write. In the publishing world there is a real disconnect between the writers and the book designers. They are treated as two entirely separate skill sets.

Designers do not deal well with words

Graphic designers [and this includes many book designers] are visual people, focused on how things look. One of my major concerns as I started to write books in the mid-1990s was my experience of using published textbooks as examples of poor communication.

My pursuit of functional, reader-centered books has been fraught with trials. This goal is so far outside the norm in traditional publishing today that there is no room at all for an author who even cares about these things.

Let’s talk about some simple examples of this lack of concern for the reader

  • Illustrations listed by number with no connection to the copy which talks about what is illustrated: In many cases, authors are not allowed to even pick out the images because they are not considered professional enough to understand what is required of an image.

    But the result is illustrations listed by number that are often not even on the same page as the content they illustrate. Why bother to even have explanatory graphics? Few readers will find them or take the time to look for them. The result is frustrated readership and readers who simply quit reading in disgust.

  • Heads and subheads generated by designers: In many cases over the years I spent as a graphic designer, I wrote all the subheads, developed all the lists, wrote all the captions, and even wrote most of the headlines.

    I developed them out of a need to help direct the reader through the copy I was formatting for the writer of that copy. The author had no clue that they were desirable or necessary. I wrote them as a service to the reader. But I was a real minority as mentioned. Many designers [and it may well be most designers] do not even read the copy they layout. The ones who do read and try to help usually do not understand your niche.

  • Page layout determined by fashion and visual concerns: Fonts are chosen because they look good. Layouts are determined by fashion. Columns, margins, sidebars and the like are chosen to stimulate visual interest and provoke excitement instead of being chosen to communicate the content effectively, clearly, and accessibly.

    The most glaring example of this is seen in the countless books where content is broken up into small pieces to help people with short attention spans. No one seems to even consider using content that is so compelling that the reader becomes immersed in it.

But it goes much further than that. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia about the normal traditional editorial process [force yourself to read the next paragraph, I know it’s hard]:

“A decision is taken to publish a work, and the technical legal issues resolved, the author may be asked to improve the quality of the work through rewriting or smaller changes, and the staff will edit the work. Publishers may maintain a house style, and staff will copy edit to ensure that the work matches the style and grammatical requirements of each market. Editors often choose or refine titles and headlines. Editing may also involve structural changes and requests for more information. Some publishers employ fact checkers, particularly regarding non-fiction works.”

Notice that there is nothing here about serving the readers. The readers’ needs are not part of the process. It’s all about sales and the marketing decisions of the publisher.

This process is long and expensive

It’s all about money. Books must support a huge bureaucratic infrastructure both at the publishing house and at the printing company. Production costs run from tens of thousands of dollars on up to millions. If you cannot count on selling thousands or millions of books, they cannot afford to publish your work. It commonly takes a year after the manuscript is completed to produce the book. For time-sensitive work, this does not work well.

These specialists commonly do not understand your content

I have had copyeditors flag something to be changed or eliminated that was standard industry usage because he or she did not speak the industry lingo. They had no idea what a separation is for an image, or a signature is for a book, or that leading is a specific measurement (and deals with the metal not a person out front leading the procession).

Imagine finding editors and proofers for a book on a capella choir music, steam engine design, Japanese carpentry, Norwegian landscape design, dulcimer construction, raku kiln design, rosemaling, passion plays, calligraphy, weaving looms, Pueblo Indian jewelry, Hatch green chilé, I Ching, prophets, or whatever your niche is. It’s not going to happen.

But you can write a book to your niche that will sell well. You know your niche and you understand your readers much better than the publishing houses do.

You must learn to produce your own books.

For the past two decades, I have taught publishing skills. For the past fifteen years I have written and published books, both traditionally and on-demand. I have taught skills to present digital content transparently, effectively, and gracefully. But Word [and word processors in general] cannot do this. There are skills and capabilities that are necessary which are simply not available in Office.

Typography: This is the skill to use fonts, paragraph styling, and page layout to invisibly communicate content: point size, leading, small caps, ligatures, oldstyle figures, lining figures, ems, ens, discretionary hyphens, tracking, kerning, and much more. For this you need a professional page layout program, InDesign.

High resolution images: Printing requires 300 dpi minimum. You’ll need Photoshop. JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs won’t work.

Postscript (or PDF): This is a page description language that is required by book printers. You must be able to create [and proof] in Postscript. This requires InDesign, Photoshop, and Acrobat Pro.

PDFs: All printing companies now require a PDF from which to print. If you give them anything less, they make their own PDF. You have no control over what results from that conversion.

Page layout: A thorough understanding of columns, margins, alignments, indents, gutters, lists, tables, headlines, subheads, sidebars, running heads, drop caps, and much more is necessary to help your readers.

A word about typography

This is the key. Without excellent typography, many of your potential readers will refuse to read your book—no matter how compelling your verbiage. Writing a book without controlling the typography is like racing against Indy cars with a Chevy. You can make that Chevy really fast—but can you compete?

Word cannot do typography [without an incredible amount of knowledge and effort]. Once you have that knowledge, InDesign is a typographic dream come true—eliminating much of the effort.

It will take study

But then, you had to learn how to write, correct? Now you need to learn how to communicate. Here’s a good working definition of typography:

Typography is communicating clearly and effortlessly without the reader’s awareness of what you are doing

This is what InDesign does best. It gives you the ability to implement clean, clear typography that is instantly comprehended by the reader. Your readers do not even see the words. The content directly enters their minds and they become immersed in it.

You may write incredibly good content. Without excellent typography, you are giving your writing a handicap that many readers will have a difficult time overcoming.

Writing in InDesign gives you typographic power

You can use a subhead for clarity, a kicker to emphasize a headline or subhead, lists to recapture the reader’s attention, a sidebar for peripheral information, a table for overly complex lists, and much more. You can see on the page [as you write] how clearly the content is being communicated. It changes your book into an expression of your content. It provides the control you need to speak to your specific niche.

Basically writing in InDesign gives you tools that word processors have a hard time even imagining. You will find yourself using styles to make a portion of content more visible (or less visible). You will learn to communicate much more clearly.

When you’re done, it’s ready to print!

The final result of an InDesign document is a print-ready PDF or a validated ePUB. If you print on-demand, it can be in the hand of your reader in a week or less. If you produce an ePUB or downloadable PDF, they can have it to read this afternoon. A Kindle book might take another week. All from the same content.

I have done that with my latest book, Writing in InDesign. Currently, it’s available at Lulu and Amazon. I haven’t gotten to the ebook versions yet. I’d love to hear your feedback. Let’s talk on Twitter: @davidbergsland or on my blog.

David Bergsland‘sDavid Bergsland passion is typography, page layout, & book design. He’s written seven books published by others and helped with a few more. But the best part of the books for him were the six that he was able to design and produce in their entirety.

Since early in the millenium, he’s published dozens of books and booklets—his best-seller is self-published on-demand: Practical Font Design, now offered by FontLab in some of their bundles.

He’s been in print production since the late 1970s as an art director and then a teacher, and helped to develop some of the first materials to teach the new digital print paradigm in the early 1990s. David’s been teaching digital publishing since 1991 and began on-demand publishing with downloadable PDFs in the mid-1990s.

He was on the original team with InDesign 1 and has written many books and booklets on how to use InDesign effectively. After beginning to write full-time in 2009, he has become even more enamored of the page layout tool—doing all of his writing within the app.

He lives in southern Minnesota in a small town with his Pastor wife and near his daughter and four grandchildren.

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    { 58 comments… read them below or add one }

    Paul Salvette August 17, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Thank you for this article. I have a small bit of experience with InDesign at my day job, but I’ve never tried laying out an actual print book. In regards to EPUB, how smooth is the conversion from InDesign to EPUB?

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 27, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    It goes pretty well if you set it up well. You need to get everything converted to something that an ePUB can use (That’s in the book), and then carefully map everything with the Export All Tags dialog. I just posted about that a couple days ago. I called the post, “Forcing InDesign to write acceptable CSS” http://www.bergsland.org/2011/08/typography/forcing-indesign-to-write-acceptable-css/

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 17, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Thanks, Joel

    Reply

    Margot Heesakker August 17, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Hallelujah; I’ve been saying the same thing to my journalist / writer friends for YEARS, and get blank stares and digi-frightened ‘oh no I couldn’t possibly’ expressions. For practical reasons alone, writing into the lay-out is best; but the fun of working with different fonts, effects, style elements is for me the most important reason; it just makes me happy.
    Thank you David!

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 17, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I have a hard time understanding how they can put up with Word. But that’s just me. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Reply

    Ryan Bradshaw August 17, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Sold!

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Is that because you’re already doing it?

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus August 17, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I’ve tried InDesign three times and quit three times. It seems to have a very steep learning curve, so I keep going back to MS Word. After formatting over 20 books I’ve learned to live with Word’s annoyances. Word does what I want it to do, and my books are getting better and better. OTOH, one of the ugliest books I’ve ever seen was formatted with InDesign.

    Maybe I need InDesign lite, like Adobe’s Photoshop Elements.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.BookFur.com (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    http://RentABookReviewer.com (pre-publication book assessments)
    – Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
    – “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

    – coming soon: “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books” http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing/stinkersworstselfpub.html

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

    This is why I wrote the book—to help with the paradigm shift. It does take study and learning, just as writing itself does.

    It is true that if you are writing fiction or simple non-fiction with no graphics Word might do OK. But the typography is always going to be severely compromised because Word just can’t do it. It takes much more typographic knowledge to beat Word into submission than to produce excellent typography and good book design in InDesign. But it does take work and practice.

    If you can find it in yourself to make the effort you’ll reap the rewards unless you are doing very simple books.

    Reply

    Darby August 17, 2011 at 10:25 am

    This is a great article David. I want the freedom and control you describe but really doubt my skills in working in this program. I plan to check out your book. Thanks so much!

    Reply

    david Bergsland August 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

    It takes a bit of getting used to, but most people love it pretty quick.

    Reply

    Dave Bricker August 17, 2011 at 10:33 am

    As a longtime designer, MFA Design educator and author, I agree wholeheartedly with most of the article. InDesign is the obvious choice for typesetting, layout and design but I would not encourage the use of InDesign as a writing tool. I also agree that the impersonal, corporate editing process you describe is not conducive to creating great results. The “right” editor is passionate, informed and engaged in a collaborative process with the writer.

    As a self-publisher on a budget, I crowdsource my editing. I have ten friends who have agreed to read and comment on one chapter per week. Some are University Professors. Others know the settings and scenarios. Some are just readers whose opinions I trust. By combining their feedback, I get technical and qualitative feedback that one editor alone could never provide.

    InDesign is the wrong tool for that collaborative process. There is much to hate about MS Word; I wouldn’t use it for typesetting but it has better spelling and grammar checking than InDesign and it has fantastic annotation and commenting capabilities. Moreover Word docs can be uploaded to Google Docs or (you gotta check this out) http://www.thinkFree.com where they can be shared, annotated and commented on by others invited to do so.

    At issue is whether we should eliminate the distinction between the manuscript and the typeset book. Graphic designers have the luxury of doing that, but the average writer is best encouraged to hack away in Times New Roman. Every time a client tries to get fancy with the typography, it means a lot of my time will go into making repairs. Turning Joe Writer loose with a power tool like InDesign is dangerous.

    I do my writing in StoryMill (Scrivener looks like a great alternative – Thanks, Joel). When my draft is finished, I export to MS Word and begin the editing process. When the editing is done, I import into InDesign and make it all look great. Each tool offers unique advantages to its particular part of the process.

    Things we already know how to do are easy. As a designer and a writer, I imagine I share with you a certain inability to separate the writing from the appearance of the type that embodies it. Word frustrates me, and the need to hold back and not manipulate the text typographically in it does, too. But I just received a manuscript from a client who typed each chapter of his memoir into an email and sent it all to himself(!) I’ve since introduced him to Open Office, but you get the idea. This is not an uncommon scenario. I have enough trouble gettng my graduate students to set indents and tabs.

    If you are writing and editing your own work and have the skills, you’ll undoubtedly find that writing in InDesign offers the fastest route to a finished product. However, when counseling those who don’t understand optical margins or don’t know not to type a double-space after a period (the majority of writers), you’re aiming mighty high. Moreover, while there are some ineffective editing processes and policies out there, they don’t negate the value of a good editor to the most accomplished writer.

    I love InDesign and join you in your advocacy of it as a brilliant tool, but would counsel the average reader of a self-publishing blog to stick to the basics and leave the prettying-up to someone better qualified like yourself.

    Respectfully,

    Dave Bricker

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I crowd source the editing/proofing with PDFs. I find it really helps to have them looking at a formatted book.

    I’m working on some simple templates to bring in the paragraph styles et al that I advocate.

    It does take some work. But it is fun, exciting work (and you never have to look the horrible interface of Word again ;-).

    Reply

    Randy September 13, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I use Scrivener for my writing because it is designed specifically for writing. My writing performance increased significantly after switching from Word to Scrivener. In fact, writing became pleasurable. Before Scrivener I was using Word and never realized how much it’s interface and spell check broke my concentration.

    However, having said that, I also agree with Dave that the “Track Changes” functionality of Word is a hands-down winner when I get to the editing stage. I tried crowd source editing and it was miserable. I found that, no matter how much education someone had, there are some people that just have an innate knack for finding errors. I’m not one of those. I switched to a professional editor for my last two books and she is well worth every penny. I pay around 6 or 7 cents per word, depending on the length of the book. Even then she still misses things. When she’s done, it’s only then that I send it out to friends for their analysis. Now they only have to pickup the few strays.

    Now onto InDesign. I don’t know that app so I’m buying a copy to give it a try. Why? Because MS Word simply gets overwhelmed when you create a complex book with lots of example graphics of multiple sizes. Trying to get one into the right position is one thing – keeping there is another. After about 100 pages the file size seems to get too large and the files start to corrupt, scrolling is nearly impossible at times (when you approach large images), and changes to anything can produce some very unusual and unwanted effects at times. I’m often having to go into the imbedded codes to clear out section breaks left-over bullets, etc.

    On my next project I want to produce a book that is tabloid size. I have lots of large graphics that have fine details that need the space. I would really like a software tool that could handle columns elegantly, and be able to manage layout of images better.

    Let’s hope that InDesign works.

    I bought your e-book just now from Lulu, so I’ll give it a read and see how much trouble I’m in for.

    Cheers, Randy

    Reply

    David Bergsland September 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

    It sounds like the tool you need. I just posted on why I went back to Fontographer to design my fonts. I had the same reason you have for Scrivener—it made font design fun again. Creating books is what I do and Fontographer really helps without sidetracking me into work.

    It’ll take some work to make InDesign do what you want (learning typography will take a bit of study), but my guess is that shortly you’ll be directly importing your copy from Scrivener into your book constructed in InDesign. I suspect Word will become a distant bad memory. If I can help in any way, just let me know.

    Reply

    Zaid Salman August 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Actually, Adobe InCopy, which seems to be well-kept secret even in the publishing world, is exactly the solution for collaborative work with InDesign. You can have a designer do the book layout in InDesign, and all the people writing the copy for the book can use InCopy and don’t have to think about the layout, type or anything else. They could if they wanted to, but it’s not necessary.

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I would agree except that this assumes that you are already in a contractual relationship with someone you are paying to format your copy. My focus is on people who are formatting their own work. But if you are in a relationship with a formatter/book designer and are producing a lot of books, this would be a good solution.

    Reply

    Diana Delosh August 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Great article and exactly my sentiments. I’m an illustrator/writer hemming and hawing about self publishing an e-picturebook. Most of the tutorials out there seem to address authors and making word docs into PDFs etc. I was thinking that I’d rather just use In-Design or Quark or even Photoshop, anything but the clunky Word program to layout a book.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I know several authors/designers who use InDesign for text entry, but this is obviously an area where one size does not fit all.

    My workflow is almost completely the opposite. I do all my draft writing now in low-distraction environments, which I’ve written about often here here and here.

    I do this specifically to avoid the fonts, formatting, spacing, styling and everything else that comes with those functions. With monospaced fonts and nothing else to do but write, I’m much more productive.

    I use Word for editing simply because it’s quite capable and fast and it’s a program I don’t have to learn. Then it’s off to InDesign for design and formatting.

    Each step of this process pleases me because I have a tool that does exactly what I want it to do, and each mindset (for me) is totally different. Creativity at the beginning, synthesis and refinement in the middle, and graphics at the end.

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    For me I need the formatting to develop the book. A book is a synergistic gestalt for me, much larger than the sum of its parts.

    Working in InDesign makes creating a book fun.

    Reply

    Sue Collier August 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I’m a writer with a design background so I’m well familiar with both Word and InDesign, and when I first read this article yesterday, my initial reaction was No way! But as I’ve thought about it, I’m really intrigued at the idea. Like many people, I despise Word–and the idea of not using it for book writing (I’m working on a book right now) sounds very appealing. But also very alien. Great article. Great food for thought. Thanks, David.

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I got started when I was still teaching. I was doing tons of 1-4 page handouts—fully formatted. It would have been absurd to work outside of InDesign (they were for my digital publishing courses in what is now called the Creative Suite).

    It got to be so comfortable, that when I started self-publishning my books, InDesign was the only app I considered. I can’t stand the frustration of working in Word now. If that’s what they require, I write in InDesign, export in RTF, open in Wurd, and resave as a Word doc.

    Reply

    Anthony StClair August 19, 2011 at 11:25 am

    A great concept, but very much in the one-size-doesn’t-fit-all category. I can see the value of learning In Design, but not as my default drafting tool. At the drafting stage of an any piece, I’m concerned with getting the content set. Format varies depending on where it’s going (newspaper, print, web, etc.). To me, these are secondary parts of the process. I wouldn’t want to draft in In Design, setting things up stylistically, than I would want to put off writing my lead paragraph by writing a stylesheet first.

    I’d also turn this on its head. Authors will very well benefit from getting their hands dirty in the design process and understanding it better . It’s a shame that, from the sound of the piece, designers don’t have a similar motivation to better understand the particulars of the copy their designing around.

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

    & how did you decide that? I am highly motivated to understand the particulars of my copy—huff, huff, defense posture… ;-)

    I don’t find anything but InDesign fluid enough for my work. Plus, unformatted copy has many bad associations with me. I cannot shake the bureaucratic look of it all.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 19, 2011 at 11:54 am

    That’s interesting. I have the opposite response to unformatted copy. It allows me to see the words, the ideas, the writing itself. I have many templates I’ve designed over the years that you would probably laugh at, even one in InDesign. They render everything unformatted (and in monospaced fonts!). My association with unformatted copy is “original manuscript,” and has almost all positive associations.

    Reply

    Anthony StClair August 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Part of where I come from is looking at unformatted, straight-up copy helps me focus on the story. No gussying up, nothing getting hidden in design. The story has to be right, and for me that works great in either Pages or TextWrangler.

    Another reason is simple: just as every designer isn’t a word person, not every writer is a design person. I can technically learn InDesign, and have done design and layout (many, many moons ago), but I also know design isn’t one of my strengths. If I have to choose between using my time and energy to get the story right, or to faff about in InDesign, I’m going with getting the story right. Design can follow once the story is ready.

    Like Joel, I love unformatted copy. To me it’s raw material. Once the story is ready, the design helps bring it to its full potential, be that through stylesheets for web, or inside InDesign for print.

    And as for you understanding your copy, I totally agree. But as you said, there are designers who wouldn’t be, because they’re designers, not writers.

    Reply

    David Bergsland August 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Sorry to be so long, my daughter got married yesterday. @Anthony too

    I’m sure that part of it is that the only book I ever did for a publisher where I could not work fully formatted (one of the biggies), was ruined by the people at the publisher who formatted the word docs for a book on InDesign with Ventura and made the book so incomprehensible typographically that all I could do with my own book in my classes was apologize and use it as a bad example. The illustrations were never on the same page as the copy that talked about the graphic and all the things I hate about poorly done non-fiction. The graphics are part of the read and must be where they make sense in the copy—for me.

    All the other books I did traditional (one of the largest textbooks publishers), I did all the writing, formatting, graphics, fonts, and final PDF. I was fortunate enough to be writing about digital production before the publisher had gone digital themselves. I had to do the fonts, because the things I was writing about typographically were not possible with the fonts I had (like how can you talk about small cap figures if you do not have a font with small cap figures to show what they look like within the paragraph your readers are digesting?)

    As a student of readability, typography, and page layout, what I teach all my students is that unformatted copy is so hard to read that a lot of the content is missed.

    We’re all different, even in stuff like this. If I’m writing, I think in terms of illustrations, emphasis, and the like. Without it, the copy is monotone dull. I need the illustration, table, chart, photo, whatever, completed and in place before I can continue. So, my graphic production is part of my writing.

    Even with my novel, I could not go on until I had the hero’s home and workshop drawn up and inserted into the story where it made the chapter come alive. When the invasion happened, I needed the map of troop movements there—both to refer to, and to remind myself—as I wrote. For the future fantasy I’ve been working on for years, I had to do the maps (to keep the fictitious names straight if nothing else), design the organizational structure of the palace and the like to make the story work. If I need to communicate graphically to the reader, I do so in context, within the copy. Thankfully, InDesign is also my favorite illustration tool (well, FreeHand 8 or 9 was, but they’re gone).

    It’s just a different way of working that I find immensely fun and very satisfying. But then I’m not a great writer or artist. I just fumble along trying to communicate with my readers as clearly as possible.

    Reply

    Richard Hurley August 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I’ve been using Pages for writing of late. The only real advantage I ever found in Word was the macros – also the only feature I ever met in WP software that could bring down an entire Mac system.

    It is definitely worth leaving some editing time for InDesign, even if you don’t really author there. It is a lot easier to edit a “typeset” page – catch a lot more typos and really “see” the prose rhythm in manageable chunks. The only weakness I found (besides the difficulty of co-operative editing noted above) is that InDesign’s print dialog is pretty rough, which is a real drag if you like to proof hardcopy. (Five versions of CS and still no print-the-current-page-damn-it button? Am I missing something, or is Adobe simply being perverse?)

    I wish InDesign could really cut and paste fluidly from Word or Pages, but overrides to character and paragraph styles don’t seem to travel well. My experiments in this regard led to a lot of re-entering of italics.

    Writing (or editing) in ID seems to be a really case- and writer-specific matter. I can understand some folks not liking the idea (or backing away from ID’s learning curve), but I really enjoyed being able to make typographic issues go away by adding or deleting a word, say. And it is great fun to try and sneak in a few of your own ideas about how stuff should be printed. Prescriptivism has its place, but language is a cooperative cultural effort (as is the effort to capture visually). It’s okay to experiment, so long as you’re willing to take your licks if people don’t care for your ideas.

    Reply

    James August 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I worked as a technical writer for over 15 years, and used too many tools to count. I’ve used every version of InDesign, Quark, FrameMaker, Word, etc.

    InDesign isn’t a great (or inexpensive) tool for writers. I’m talking about writers as people who mainly write words–novels, short stories, other (primarily) text works. Using InDesign for that is like using a 15-speed riding mower with a cabin and air conditioning to mow your 10×10-foot yard. The payoff just isn’t there.

    Textbook authors? Documents with a lot of graphical elements or an unusual form factor or layout? That’s a different animal, and relies more on layout and visual design than text content. For that, InDesign is a more appropriate tool, I think.

    And though I don’t use Word for my own work now (or recomment Office), I’ve used 2007 and 2010 to do amazing things with layout on long documents. 2010 is especially robust, and the most user-friendly product Microsoft’s ever created (there aren’t many).

    I agree that writers today (depending on their goal) will need to become more savvy about publishing tools. But for self-publishers, for example–most of whom are plain genre fiction novelists–text and a cover is what they’re after. For them, understand typography and white space a bit better are probably better goals.

    Reply

    Carradee August 24, 2011 at 10:24 am

    While that’s interesting, I disagree that everyone should use InDesign. :)

    I write in Scrivener, which is an extremely flexible program I use for everything: blog posts, novels, and articles. It can also be set up for “Page View” reflect book layout—which can even be done in Microsoft Word, though not well.

    Now, when I’m putting together a handout or résumé, I’m apt to do the writing and layout together, right in Pages. I’ve fiddled with Scribus for producing book layouts, but it’s really overkill. I can format a book’s innards on my Mac with MS Word, if necessary. It won’t be fun, but it’s doable.

    But I do agree that writers should be more aware of text layout. I include myself in that judgment.

    Reply

    Rich Shields August 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Howdy. I self-published my mother’s autobiography six years ago. I really started in Word 6 (Mac) in 1999, but things went crazy quickly. I then wrote in Nisus Classic. Finally as I was looking to pull it together, I found Papyrus (Mac and Windows available). It was rick solid, and I continued writing and doing page lay out in Papyrus. It worked like a charm, handling about 100 photos and I did all final PDFs using Papyrus. Unfortunately the English version of Papyrus has not been touched/updated in six years (the German version was substantially upgraded three years ago).

    Some of my handouts, etc. for teaching have included some Hebrew, and so Mellel has been my tool of choice for printing. About three years ago I bought Adobe CS4 Premier Collection (Acrobat Pro, Bridge, Device Central, Dreamweaver, Drive, Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Media Player, Photoshop), and have played some with InDesign, but never thought about using InDesign for the whole process. I edit our national church magazine, but do little of that in InDesign, since we have someone who handles that portion. If I don’t use Hebrew, then there might be a potential. I will have to reflect and consider what you have written.

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    David Bergsland August 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I’m on the edge of learning Hebrew myself. Haven’t gone there yet. Let me know your thoughts, please. I’m writing an expanded version for Rabbis and Ministers and including some of the drawing capabilities and more of InDesign. I know there is a version that works in Hebrew. Going back and forth would be a bit tricky, I would think.

    Reply

    Paul Brookes August 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Joel–I see where you’re coming from, but in my experience, I would have been happiest if authors had supplied text in HTML or ASCII text.

    It’s the most flexible if you need to create a typeset book, an ePub file *and* a Kindle file. If you can get the author to use MS Word styles, then there are ways of converting it to HTML (and without using the terrible Save As Webpage option in Word).

    Reply

    Katherine Owen September 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

    This is a fascinating idea. I’ve used Adobe InDesign for my print versions of two of my novels and utilized the Kindle plug-in for the Mobi versions. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it; the books turned out great.

    I’m intrigued with the idea of working in InDesign from beginning. Word does introduce all kinds of nuances that make it difficult from a e-pub formatting perspective later on. And, there’s something to be said for organizing the book (print or e-book) from a reader’s perspective from the very beginning. Thanks for the post; you’ve gotten this writer excited to try something different!

    Best,

    Katherine Owen

    Reply

    David Bergsland September 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Excellent! That’s one of the reasons I started. I was spending a ridiculous amount of time eliminating what was done in Word before I could start formatting.

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    Brandon Morris September 22, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Interesting article! I’m working with my trial edition of InDesign now as we re-write our book. This book was first written in word, then converted to AuthorIt by a contractor. We used word, then they converted it to Author it…that didn’t work well. Started working with a contractor that uses InDesign…did a complete update to our manual this way but it was linked to pdfs in InDesign…this was great for a bit, but for updating the manual again it’s not working. So NOW we are learning InDesign for ourselves in order to facilitate this update…this book is 450 pages with computer screenshots on almost every page if not multiple.

    Glad I saw your article and your website.

    Reply

    David Bergsland September 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Let me know if I can help. That’s the type of books I do in most cases, also.

    Reply

    Thomas Thomassen February 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Very interesting article. I love working with graphics and typography and I got an idea for a book – niche topic. This article was very useful.

    There was a comment I stumbled on though:
    “You’ll need Photoshop. JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs won’t work”
    This is comparing oranges and trees. Photoshop produces JPEGs, GIFs and PNGs – and it’s native format PSD is bitmap data – no different from JPEG, GIF and PNG. The fileformat is just the carrier of the data – so what that statement?

    Reply

    David Bergsland February 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Actually, they are very different. The PSDs are needed for the 300 dpi CMYK images, or even the 300 dpi greyscale images. The JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs need to be using Save For Web through Photoshop to get the files optimized for the Web with the smaller file sizes. And JPEG, GIF, and PNG all toss a lot of data.

    So, bitmaps for print are very different from the web images in the exported ePUBs and Kindle books. But they both need Photoshop IMHO. Even the conversion from CMYK to RGB or vice versa needs PS. And the CMYK images should be converted to 300 dpi RGB for the downloadable PDFs.

    Reply

    M. Gutmann March 30, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I have used QuarkExpress for more than twenty years for design jobs, but Word for writing. I see your point in using InDesign and it makes great sense. BUT I have just bought the program and a new Mac and can’t find a book that will take me thru simple work. For example, I set up an oversize newsletter as a test and drew in text boxes as I would in Quark (I know they don’t call them that in InDesign) and I am stuck. I would link them and roar on from there, but I am flummoxed.

    The program had no book with it and I see no tutorials. I will not use a template, I make my own, and I am at a loss. I looked at books and they were complex and confusing. Will your book “Writing in InDesign” help? I haven’t looked at one of the “For Dummies” books.
    Thank you

    Reply

    David Bergsland March 30, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Hi M,

    Yes, my book should help quite a bit. A new greatly expanded version of “Writing In InDesign” will be out when CS6 is released and Adobe is now offering free upgrades to CS6 (so it should happen within a month).

    Sandee Cohen’s Visual Quickstart covers all the commands and is excellent. David Blatner wrote a book to help people converting from Quark to InDesign.

    If you know Illustrator, that should help you understand the tools better.

    I assume you just took the type tool and drew a box. InD calls them frames. Any frame can graphics or type. A frame that is not determined can have text added to it by simply double-clicking in the box with the text tool.

    If you fill a text frame and it overflows, a small square with a red + symbol in it will appear at the bottom right edge of the frame. If you switch to the Selection tool (the black one) you can click on that plus to load the overflow type into your cursor. Then you can simply click-drag to produce a newly linked frame. Or you can move the cursor over the upper left corner of the next frame and a link graphic will appear.

    Reply

    Summer Said June 29, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Hey there! InDesign and the entire CS5 suite that I use is indispensable. I write all the time and haven’t touched Word since the 90′s. It’s an antique if not a completely obsolete writing platform that offers no creative control. And if there is anything writers and artists alike MUST have, is creative control! I have several manuscripts in the works and all are being done in InDesign. Transitions from PS to ID are a breeze and the finished work is professional and beautiful. I couldn’t do without either. Thanks for this post. Not much info about writing in ID. Cheers!

    Reply

    David Howarth July 24, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Hi David,

    I am student doing a distance learning design course and I have indesign l am attempting to write a study booklet on teaching English. Some content will be copied and pasted, but im planning on making the format and layout as interesting and easy to follow as possible, with tables, lesson planning, tasks, games etc. I would also like to create an e-version in time. I am a beginner, which of your books would be most suitable as a guide. “Publishing with Indesign” or “writing in Indesign”

    With Regards
    David

    Reply

    David Bergsland July 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Hi David,

    There is a new greatly expanded version of “Writing In InDesign Second Edition”. It has been updated for InDEsign CS6 (though it still works fine for CS5.5. CS6 is an important upgrade and the Amazon’s free Kindle Export plug-in was just updated again today.

    I would recommend the new book. The reviews have been good. It’s available at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. By next week, ePUB and PDFs versions will be released for iBooks, NookBooks, Kobo, and Scribd. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Reply

    David Howarth July 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I’m starting out and I have looked at adobe tv but cant seem to work with that whilst working on indesign at the same time, I guess theres still a place for hard copy. Ive just purchased both of the books but not the second edition you mentioned, I looked at that and thought it perhaps in advance for my project. Thanks for your help and I am looking forward to the books and starting work on indesign. In your experience how long do you think it would take someone to utilise and organise indesign if a person is still learning the proposed content for the publication. I really want to make a start and when i open indesign it looks pretty blank and feels hard to get to know, but i’ve had it with word its like making bricks but you cant build a building.

    Regards

    David

    Reply

    David Bergsland July 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    For that basic entry stuff, nothing is better than Sandee Cohen’s Visual Quickstart for InDesign. It answers all the basic questions you seems to be asking. My book assumes you know a little.

    Reply

    Alistair Smith November 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I’ve got a great deal out of the article, but even more from reading the comments. Such a joy to see so many constructive inputs. I’ve written prolifically for ten years and have about 30 books ready to publish. I first published about 12 years ago and had a very bad experience – spending a lot of money on the advice of people I trusted only to discover that the project never had a hope. Now I’ve decided that I’ve just got to have creative control myself, so I’ve bought adobe CS-6 Creatove Suite and have had afirst go at setting up one of my books on it. I got to the end feeling great excirement only to find it did not work. So back to the drawing board. These comments have inspired me to try again and I’ll start with Sandee’s book. Thanks to all those who have shared their wisdom so this beginner can have the courage to fall over again – and again and.. until he gets it right.

    Alistair

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 27, 2012 at 4:46 am

    There is a lot to learn. If you have any questions, after reading Sandee’s book, just let me know.

    Reply

    C. Clark May 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    OK everyone I have read your comments, but for the rest of us that are working on a product with lots of photos, graphics, and text, and is on a very tight budget, and is limited to MSPublisher, MSWord, Acrobat, PS Elements….what is the easiest way to write, design, and publish a 200 page booklet?

    Reply

    C. Clark May 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    OK everyone I have read your comments, but for the rest of us that are working on a product with lots of photos, graphics, and text, and is on a very tight budget, and is limited to MSPublisher, MSWord, Acrobat, PS Elements….what is the easiest way to write, design, and publish a 200 page booklet?

    Also, the final booklet size will be 8 1/2 by 14 1/2

    Reply

    William James October 10, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I publish an e-zine for kindle. I enjoy the process of putting books together. However, I am in the process of moving towards publishing booklets with a sadle stich binding. I don’t have the time to manually adjust for creep. Does InDesign have a function that corrects for margin creep so that when I execute the trim cut, the margins come out perfect?

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 10, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Hi William, You take me way back to when I was an art director for a large commercial printer. To be honest, I haven’t worried about this issue for many years. The last time I checked, InDesign had a Build Booklet command which allowed for creep. I just went and checked. InDesign CC still has a command at the bottom of the File menu called Print Booklet… it has a creep setting for 2-up saddle stitch. If you are using signatures larger than 4-pages, the printing company will do the adjusting with their imposition software.

    Reply

    Bob Amon October 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

    This thread offers excellent points on both sides (purist writers vs. writer/designers). I have a non-fiction memoir based on a diary I kept in Vietnam in 1969, that I recently completed in Word. I also own Adobe Premium CS5.5, so just yesterday I was able to finagle the manuscript into InDesign. Several questions:

    David, you mention CS6 has several key upgrades. Do I necessarily need to spend the $570 Adobe is looking for to upgrade from CS5.5 to CS6? I suspect I can do without for now, unless you think otherwise.

    Also, I do still have some text editing to do, but also have photos and possibly maps, lists of military acronyms, indexes, etc. to insert. Would you recommend still working in Word to finish up or just totally leave it in the dust and get on with the new learning curve and “on the job training” of my InDesign.

    I do have experience in DW and PS, which are also steep learning curves, but have been able to launch three successful websites nonetheless. TIA for any input and advice!

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

    For print, InDesign CS2 will do great! For ePUBs, CS6 is the first one to validate without cracking the file and messing with the code. But there were still major issues. You could not embed fonts, include a table, or do a decent list. With CC, font and lists now work easily with a direct export. Tables will still need more time and future releases. You don’t even need the plug-in from Kindle anymore as you can convert the CC ePUBs by uploading them directly into KDP.
    However, an ease of conversion from a complexly formatted non-fiction book to an ePUB almost requires InDesign and CC is only $20 a month for the subscription.
    For graphics, Word is a disaster.

    In a few words: Go for InDesign! You’ll be happy, especially when it can export ebooks as easily as it does PDFs. That should be coming within a year or so. So, that gives you a year to get up to speed. I’ll have a new book, “Writing In InDesign CC”, out before the end of the year, Lord willing.

    Reply

    Bob Amon October 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Thanks David.

    I am wrestling with the learning curve as we type. This is a bit of a tough setup. I know I have the text in ID and that’s about all I know!

    I now have to familiarize myself with the paragraph and character styles and Master Pages and Lord knows what else before I can even think about proceeding with the nuts and bolts. But I do have Sandee Cohen’s InDesign CS5 and there are videos on You Tube which seem to be helping.

    I know in the long run I am better off switching now, before I get further along with Word. Not to be overlooked is the fact that there are intricasies in learning advanced Word too, which, at least for me at this point in my journey, would be time ill spent when I could be applying myself to learning the intricasies of ID. Thanks again and I’ll keep everyone posted…

    Reply

    adobe photoshop cs6 serial number October 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Portraits, landscapes, sport scenes, etc will all
    work for this tutorial. If you go to a Fed – Ex Kinko’s, choose
    10pt glossy cover (CC2) for your headshot copies.
    A very impressive integration of the Adobe family products like Lightroom 4 will have power users jumping for joy with the workflow that
    will be achieved by using this product.

    Reply

    Amedeo February 26, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Hi Joel, first of all congratulations for your very interesting website! I’m planning to write my first book (music theory) and for various reasons I decided to do it myself and, after much research and information, I decided to use latex. How come your site is never spoken about latex?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks very much Amedeo, much appreciated. I’ve never covered Latex because I’ve never used it. Throughout my professional career I’ve had tools like Ventura Publisher, QuarkXPress, and now Adobe InDesign, so had no need for others. But there’s a lot of support for Latex on the web, and I’m sure with a bit of searching you’ll find plenty to help out.

    Reply

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